Operator Training and Community Engagement Workshop, Potluck Style

Kathy Rodgers, NH State Lead and Sarah Buck, Deputy Director, Community Resources

When you think of your typical water operator training for seasoned or prospective operators, you likely would envision a room set up classroom style at a utility, community space or hotel, filled with men and women in work boots, all on call, coffee in hand, trying to sit as close to the back of the room as possible, there to get the required continuing education hours needed to maintain their operation license. The word potluck would not even come to mind, but if done right, that promise of shared food, can bring together seasoned operators to assist a community concerned about their distribution system and water quality. This concept was successfully piloted at the Pepperidge Woods water system in Barrington, NH in November 2017, entitled: Distribution System & Community Engagement Workshop.

An animated exchange of information was had by all participants.

Small community public water systems are often run by volunteer operation committees within homeowners’ associations, Co-ops, small Village Districts, etc. Operation committees are a great way to keep costs down and retain institutional knowledge. However, when water quality diminishes, the community may need to seek outside resources to help identify and tackle their issues. That was the impetus for this unique and successful potluck training. Experienced operators would have an opportunity to earn continuing education units while utilizing their expertise to assist a community that, in this case, was experiencing low pressure and brown water.

This idea of an educational potluck with operators, community & board members, and TA providers may not work everywhere, but, in the places that it might, there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure a successful experience. First of all, you need a community sparkplug that will draw community residents to the event.   That sparkplug is someone who understands the needs of the community and is willing to partner with you to accomplish a specific goal.

In this case, Jane Astley, a member of the finance committee for Pepperidge Woods, worked with the board, the operation committee, neighboring system leaders, and residents to bring in RCAP to lead a training to educate them on their water quality and effective distribution maintenance methods. It was Jane’s idea to host a potluck. Jane understood the importance of an evening shared over food. Both community members and operators took ownership of the workshop by contributing home cooked food–good food, too. RCAP’s staff learned that NH water operators really know how to cook and can make a mean chowdah!

Bear in mind, if the workshop is offered to address a problem, then there will naturally be grievances that residents will want to express. To keep the workshop productive, create a very structured agenda and follow it closely. Revisit the agenda after each section and abide the times to keep things moving along. Assure the group that you will address their individual concerns and leave ample time for open discussion during the “practical” portion of the workshop. Start out with the basic training to enable a baseline of understanding for the general audience.

Research the community prior to the workshop. It is important to have a good grasp on the community needs to tailor the content. For the NH potluck, the RCAP trainer utilized the Area 1 RCAP/AWWA Distribution training materials. The primary audience was Pepperidge Woods’ operational committee and board members, which had limited to no hands-on operational experience. Knowing the distribution system components, water quality issues, and applied treatment enabled the slide deck and examples to be geared towards the host community, Pepperidge Woods.  Water quality topics such as hydrants and nitrification were brushed to the side as it didn’t pertain to them—only the topics most relevant to this system were covered during the workshop.

Another good practice is to establish a group agreement on productive conversation or a set of “ground rules” to avoid conflict and promote a more synergistic workshop. The recommendations provided in the agreement can include:

  • Share “air time.”
  • If you disagree, consider asking a question rather than arguing to prove your point.
  • It’s okay to disagree, but don’t personalize it. Stick to the issue, not the person who is disagreeing with you.
  • Speak up if the process doesn’t seem fair.
  • Speak for yourself, not for others and not for an entire group (use “I” statements).
  • Personal stories stay in the group unless we all agree we can share them outside of the group.
  • We all share responsibility for making the group productive.
  • Be respectful and use respectful language.
  • Respect the facilitator’s role.
  • Listen first

 

Allow the community to break into small groups with the seasoned operators in attendance to help identify issues that they have encountered. Bring the group back together to report out and post the identified problems. In this case, brown water and low pressure were the predominant concerns. Then break back into small groups to discuss what could be causing the problem. Again, bring the group back together to outline potential root causes.

Community members listen and share ideas.

During the workshop, the experienced operators were eager to share several potential reasons that could contribute to the brown water and low-pressure issues. A lot of these reasons had not been previously discussed. After further trainer led discussion, the group was able to agree on the most probable root causes and discussed how to address those concerns moving forward.

The community was delighted to have new perspectives and ideas on how to work through their existing and any future issues.  The operators were more than happy to help and the whole group was so entrenched in the process that nobody was in a hurry to leave. Conversations and expressions of appreciation were still going on at least 15 minutes after the workshop’s close.  Ideally, you want to make sure that all attendees feel welcomed, are engaged, and are able to get something valuable out of the experience. The NH workshop evaluations confirmed that both the operators and community enjoyed this fresh style of training and found great value in the experience. The NH RCAP trainer is now working to develop a workshop using the same operator and community engagement potluck approach to introduce digital mapping to another small system.

When is a Bridge an Asset for a Water Utility?

Erick Toledo, Water Specialist, New England and Jenna Day, Community Development Specialist, New England

When is a bridge an asset to be considered in your water system’s financial planning? One small system, the Leino Park Water District, located in Westminster, Massachusetts, is an example of just that. The residents and water board knew they had to do something to replace this crumbling structure that was integral to servicing their community. Its value was always clear to the sixty-five households for whom it was the only right of way, but unfortunately it was not a priority for local or state highway funding. One would not normally categorize this as a water system asset, but out of desperation, ingenuity was born.

Bridge conditions had become treacherous.

After nearly a decade of patching the physical structure and countless meetings with town and state officials, the Leino Park Water District board members were told the sixty-five homes served by the bridge were too few to qualify for traditional road and bridge funding sources. Then the Leino Park Water District Board took matters into their own hands. They secured clear ownership to the bridge and land on which it is built and approached USDA Rural Development (RD) program staff to discuss their options. The had a good relationship with RD, having successfully completed loan repayments on a past water infrastructure project, so they figured they would see if they could apply for funding assistance from federal infrastructure dollars to replace the aged bridge.

Unfortunately, what looked like a promising standard application process that the system had been through before has since become more complicated and ground to a halt. RCAP Solutions received a referral from the MA/CT/RI state RD office in November 2017 to assist in the application process. Under a very tight deadline, RCAP Solutions’ staff completed the required Environmental Assessment (EA) to expedite Leino Park’s application for the replacement of the bridge. RCAP Solutions staff completed this report for free under their USDA Technitrain grant within three months. This service is often something systems pay for out of pocket—but it is an eligible work product under several RCAP’s funding sources. If your system is struggling to find funding for your required EA or Preliminary Engineering Report (PER)—contact your local RCAP and/or RD office. Like in the case of Leino Park, if your local RCAP has the expertise, they could assist and provide these services free of charge. RD also has pre-development planning grants available for low income systems that can cover these application development costs: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/water-waste-disposal-predevelopment-planning-grants.

Current bridge conditions.

Another option is the Community Engineering Corps (CEC), the domestic version of Engineers Without Borders. They have a very simple application process—although they mostly provide free engineering services for low income systems—they consider each application one on one to determine need and eligibility: http://www.communityengineeringcorps.org/.

The Board of the Leino Park Water District submitted their USDA RD funding application and though there have been a few setbacks, they are confident that funds will soon be awarded, maybe even this federal fiscal year. RCAP Solutions, the local RD staff and the Leino Park Board worked closely together to accomplish this. The existing bridge, pilings, and concrete abutments will be removed and replaced with a timber structure, designed, engineered, and built on-site that will meet or exceed state/ local specifications. Now that they own the right of way, they can plan to maintain this community/water system asset into the future. Fixing it now will ensure public safety and will allow local municipal and emergency vehicles easy access to the 65 homes if needed that they currently do not have.

A Vermont Village Looks Ahead

By Mark Johnson, Vermont State Lead

It’s late in the evening, and the monthly meeting of the Prudential Committee has been over for hours. Lisa Bowden, treasurer and clerk of the Barnet Fire District #2, is tired and frustrated. She should have been home hours ago, but an issue with the chlorine pump at the well pumphouse is keeping her awake. Lisa is used to sending out bills, balancing the District’s too-thin checkbook, and chasing customers down for delinquent payments; replacing the diaphragm on a chemical feed pump is not in her proverbial toolkit. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a new pump diaphragm in her actual toolkit, either.

A board member points out where a critical water main crosses a river in the village. The pipe has been undermined due to erosion from recent flooding and has become a source of concern for the community.

RCAP Solutions had attended the meeting out of concern that two of the three Prudential Committee members of Barnet Fire District #2 (BFD2), a special district that manages the water system, sidewalks, and the few streetlights in the tiny Vermont village, had thoughts of stepping down. Having worked with the community years before, RCAP Solutions stayed in touch with the system and knew that it was a critical time for the village. Volunteering to attend meetings, make difficult financial decisions, and mind the day to day operation of the water system seemed to be getting old for members of the Prudential Committee. Not the only thing getting old, as Lisa pointed out. “I’d hate to look at the average age in this village,” she said during a recent meeting. “We’re not getting any younger.”

In a village of a few hundred people – the system has just 61 connections – finding the right people to lead the Fire District and figure out how to fund critical infrastructure improvements wasn’t necessarily the issue. The issue was finding anyone at all. Fortunately for the village, they may have finally found the right people. For months, Lisa had pleaded for residents to attend meetings and to get involved with the water system in her regular emails to customers. And there were plenty of emails, because Lisa religiously kept customers up to date on the latest in a long string of water main breaks, boil water advisories, and water usage restrictions. Then, a resident who lives a few doors down from the pumphouse, Jon Carpenter, decided that he’d be willing to step into the role of Chairperson for the Prudential Committee. David Stevenson, a holdover from the previous Committee, agreed to be trained to help monitor the system and record chlorine residuals under the tutelage of the system’s certified water operator. Jay Sprout, a resident and pastor at a local church, decided that he’d be willing to add his voice to the three-person governing body.

Despite recent source water and treatment plant improvements made by BFD2, maintaining regulatory compliance is a real challenge – as it is for many rural communities. The water system, which serves about 205 customers, had been under a boil-water advisory since 2004 due to long-term source water deficiencies. In 2014 members of the community expressed a desire to acquire the system from its private owner, and RCAP Solutions facilitated several steps in the process. The goal of the purchase was to give the community more control over the fate of its water system. As a publicly owned water system, BFD2 would now be able to access federal funding sources for long overdue improvements.

In February of 2017, BFD2 completed a major source water improvement project, financed in part by the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. This should have marked an important milestone for the community, as they were able to lift the boil water advisory following the improvements and installation of a new disinfection process. It was not the end of infrastructure concerns, however; frequent distribution system failures were crippling the system’s operating budget. Well pumps work overtime, the chlorine supply dwindles, and another tab is opened with the local contractor to start digging. Replacing a few feet of pipe at a time is unsustainable, and the Prudential Committee knows it. The contractor, who has enabled BFD2 to continue providing pressurized, potable water by allowing BFD2 to pay when they can – knows it. Maybe most importantly, the customers are beginning to realize that a long-term solution is needed.

To address the issues in the distribution system, RCAP Solutions provided an action plan to the board. The plan calls for taking advantage of available state resources, such as an asset management grant, to better plan for future needs. In the process, BFD2 could prioritize distribution system improvements – including the replacement of a critical, aging water main crossing a river in the village. Meanwhile, the Prudential Committee is taking advantage of grant-funded leak detection services and is working with RCAP Solutions to increase revenue. In addition to securing a rate adjustment and looking at available planning grants, though, they will need to work on another critical task – gaining the support and trust of the community. For a system this size, taking on more debt – which requires community support in the form of a bond vote – will be a likely scenario considering the lack of reserves and mounting infrastructure concerns. For BFD2, it is the financially prudent approach; annual repairs are comparable to, and occasionally more than, another bond payment. With interest rates on the rise, a project that is “necessary and inevitable”, in the words of a local USDA representative, can’t be started soon enough.

For the Prudential Committee, it is more important than ever that they build on the achievements of the source water improvement project. Unfortunately, operational issues with the new

RCAP Solutions staff gives a thumbs-up after successfully restoring an adequate chlorine residual in the drinking water system.

chlorination system, coupled with the lack of local capacity for diagnosing and resolving those issues, contributed to a violation in late 2017 for failing to maintain adequate microbial treatment. Under the Groundwater Rule, the system is required to maintain a minimum chlorine residual to ensure adequate disinfection. Avoiding an additional violation would be critical; every violation or misstep for the Prudential Committee – especially one that results in another boil-water advisory- reduces the likelihood that they will be able to gain the community’s trust. Without the trust of the customers, it’s unlikely that they will move ahead with the bond vote necessary for future improvements.

Scanning the shelves of the Fire District’s pumphouse, Lisa and RCAP Solutions TAP, Mark Johnson, finally found a rebuild kit that would work for a backup pump. The chlorine residual was re-established, a violation avoided, and Lisa had received her first lesson on rebuilding a chemical metering pump. In the weeks that followed, RCAP Solutions provided practical guidance to the system’s operator and treatment plant engineer on how to improve the chemical feed system. RCAP Solutions has also provided the system’s board members with the knowledge they need to maintain compliance with state and federal regulations.

A former dairy farmer, Jon Carpenter, has brought his dedication and work ethic to help solve some of the Fire District’s most pressing issues. David Stevenson’s watchful eyes have kept the Prudential Committee from having to request a site visit from the certified water operator every time a minor issue pops up, which is helpful. Even though the operator keeps close tabs on the system, she lives over an hour away and BFD2 can’t pay for too many emergency visits. Jay Sprout’s common-sense approach to system management has already started to pay dividends; meetings are run efficiently, and discussion stays on topic.

Lisa Bowden, on the other hand, continues to claim that she’s ready for a break from her duties. Whether it’s trudging up to the storage tank in a snowstorm, communicating critical details about the system to customers, performing her duties as tax collector, or trying to act interested in the intricacies of pump diaphragms, for years Lisa has been a passionate advocate for the village. But Lisa can’t do it much longer. Nor does she want to, as she tells anyone who will listen. “I’m too old for this stuff,” she pointed out as she locked up the pumphouse, ready for a vacation that is long overdue.

 

 

Water Operator Training in Wescosville, Pennsylvania

Jeff Oxenford, Training and Technical Services Specialist with RCAP, Inc. working with training attendees.

Since 2014, RCAP has utilized EPA funding to successfully develop and deliver customized, participant-based drinking water operator/manager training that addresses compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. When this project started, RCAP conducted a nationwide training needs analysis with primacies across the country to determine root causes of compliance failure for systems serving fewer than 10,000 people. These systems include community water systems, non-transient noncommunity water systems (schools, factories, office buildings and hospitals that have their own system) and transient noncommunity water systems (campgrounds and stores where people do not remain for long periods of time).

RCAP staff conduct Annual Workplan meetings with state primacy agencies to identify the most desirable training topics and address each state’s needs. Operators across the country have been lining up to take advantage of these free training opportunities sponsored by RCAP and their national partner, the American Water Works Association. Training topics include the following: Microbial Contaminants; Disinfection By-Products; Regulatory Overview for Operators; Safe Drinking Water Act for Managers, Boards, and Councils; Distribution System Operations & Maintenance; Source Water Protection; Water Quality; Cross-Connection Control; Strategies to Comply with Regulations; Nitrites/Nitrate; Arsenic; Radionuclides; Revised Total Coliform Rule & Coliform Sampling; Ground Water Rule and Wellhead Protection; and Lead/Copper.

RCAP’s grant is part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to competitively award funds to non-profit organizations to provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems, small wastewater systems and private well owners in urban and rural communities. More than 97 percent of the nation’s 157,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of those systems serve fewer than 500 people, according to the EPA. Many small systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations. These challenges can include a lack of financial resources, aging infrastructure and high staff turnover. During these training sessions, RCAP tries to address problems and solutions particular to the operation of small water systems.

The full-day Pennsylvania Operator training was held at the Lehigh County Authority in Wescosville in October. 27 small systems operators attended this RCAP and PA AWWA sponsored workshop which focused on drinking water quality. The workshop included curriculum topics from the list above related to “How to Achieve and Maintain Compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act”. The course was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for 8 Training Contact Hours to help operators be eligible for a first-time certification or maintain their existing certification.

The workshop included exercises and a question-and-answer period where participants broke into work groups and did hands-on problem solving. Networking was also a very large component of this training and participants were able to learn from each other as well as the professional trainers. RCAP staff received overwhelmingly positive feedback and it was noted in the evaluations that attendees felt the quality of the training was very high.  

“We have all this really great training for smaller utilities, training which can be tailored to specific needs…each organization has extensive expertise and strong connections to small systems which enables us to provide free quality training to folks who need it most. Instructors have extensive training in water issues. They have knowledge of the local landscape and issues that smaller systems in particular areas are constantly faced with,” – Kami Johle Butt, AWWA’s Former Manager of ETS Business Programs.

“I went outside while they were demonstrating a hydrant test and a few of the people said this is one of the best trainings they have been to.” –Trissina Trusdell, Lehigh County Authority

“It should make you feel good that they enjoyed the training and are getting good, valuable information…” – Nancy Dinger, PA AWWA

RCAP Solutions invites consumers to ‘Protect the Source’ during Drinking Water Week

RCAP Solutions today kicked off this year’s Drinking Water Week with an invitation to “Protect the Source” throughout Massachusetts and the northeast.

RCAP Solutions, the American Water Works Association and the water community across North America will celebrate Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role drinking water plays in daily lives. Focus will be placed on ways in which water consumers can take personal responsibility in caring for their tap water and protecting it at its source.

“When we get to know our local drinking water sources, we come to understand that it is our duty as consumers and community stewards to protect and preserve them,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “Drinking Water Week provides a great opportunity to learn the various ways in which we can each protect our source water so it’s available for future generations.”

To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools and other stakeholders will celebrate the importance of drinking water through presentations, events and festivals to provide information on how consumers can understand and appreciate their water.

“We are proud to be promoting Drinking Water Week at the Massachusetts State House,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “Rural America is right here in our backyard, represented by many communities we serve in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast. We are pleased to be able to fulfill our mission and meet the essential needs of small towns and rural communities by providing valuable technical assistance and other important resources so that municipal water systems can provide safe, clean drinking water to their residents.”

For more than 40 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Additional information about Drinking Water Week, including free materials for download and celebration ideas, is available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live. RCAP Solutions is a comprehensive nonprofit community development corporation that works with communities of all sizes to address a broad range of needs. RCAP Solutions is part of a coordinated nationwide network with an integrated, multi-faceted approach to delivering high-quality services customized to each community’s unique requirements. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

About The American Water Works Association

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life

 

 

A Successful Partnership Gets Results!

Bottled water in storage. Hubbardston House was spending $350/month to provide bottled water to its 36 residents.

A Successful Partnership Gets Results! The Do Not Drink Order Lifted at Hubbardston House

Hubbardston House Apartments is a beautiful 36-unit, elderly and disabled residential home set in the rural central Massachusetts Town of Hubbardston and managed by RCAP Solutions. The affordable housing complex experienced a nitrate contamination issue with their drinking water and was issued a “Do Not Drink Order” from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The Hubbardston House Apartments Property Manager, Elizabeth Tatro met with residents to explain the situation. “Our residents were able to bathe, cook and wash with the water, just not drink,” she explained. “We reminded the residents each month in our newsletter and with posted announcements.”

Residents were mindful not to drink the water and were provided with a bottled water dispenser and free bottled water in each unit. Because of the high acidic levels causing corrosion, the water was a blue/green tinge, which caused the sinks, toilets and tubs to stain and residents were advised not to wash light colored clothes as they could become stained.

A team of technical specialists led by Jim Starbard, Massachusetts State Lead for the Rural Community Development Division at RCAP Solutions with extensive background in water and environmental issues worked with the Property Management at Hubbardston House. “We were able to identify the contamination source by fully evaluating the property’s on-site wastewater treatment system,” he explained. “We discovered that the system was not installed as designed.”

Under Construction: Water tanks are installed during the onsite wastewater system upgrade.

The team oversaw the construction of the on-site wastewater system and since that repair, the Nitrate levels have abated to levels acceptable under state drinking water standards. “Our team also helped property management with a variety of compliance issues including previous sanitary survey consent orders,” continued Starbard. “Finally, we provided long-term planning for the community’s drinking water system, to ensure continued compliance and long-term sustainability.”

“I really appreciated Jim’s expertise, he always knew the best course of action for us to take with every situation,” commented Tatro.

The residents were recently notified that the do not drink order had been lifted and that the water was completely safe to drink. While the announcement was met with cautious optimism and many questions, the residents are happy to be able to drink the water again and fully utilize nature’s most valuable resource.

“It is just such a relief, having the do not drink order lifted,” commented Tatro. “As a leasing agent for the property I would be showing potential residents this beautiful facility with all these wonderful amenities and would then have to tell them that they can’t drink the water. It was frustrating.”

Because Hubbardston House is considered a public water system; an entity that provides water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances to at least 25 people, the property manager will continue to test the water levels each month to ensure that it’s meeting all the necessary requirements and is safe for public consumption.

RCAP Secures USDA Disaster Relief Funding to Restore Small Communities

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Inc. (RCAP) has received $500,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs to provide training and technical assistance, onsite repairs, and utility management advice for rural water and wastewater utilities impacted by the 2017 hurricane season. RCAP has been on the ground providing technical assistance to rural communities affected by hurricanes since the storms hit, and this funding will allow the RCAP network to expand that work.

“Ensuring safe drinking water has proven to be a critical first step in rebuilding the small Texas communities ravaged by Hurricane Harvey at the end of August 2017,” explained Ines Polonius, CEO of Communities Unlimited. “Once critical community backbone infrastructure — a town’s water and waste water systems — is back in place and functioning properly, families can begin to rebuild their lives in the place they call home.”

With this funding, RCAP will assist rural communities, borrowers, and small water systems in Texas, the Southeast US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands in their recovery from the recent hurricanes. RCAP regional partners including the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), Communities Unlimited (CU), and RCAP Solutions will assist small utilities to complete damage assessments and disaster technical assistance work plans, apply for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) disaster programs, file insurance recovery claims, and update existing Security Vulnerability Assessments and Emergency Response plans.

“Our work in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands is in higher demand than ever before.” says Karen A. Koller, CAE, President and CEO of RCAP Solutions. “The increased funding provided by the disaster recovery grants will allow RCAP Solutions to provide additional vital technical assistance and services to those in desperate need of safe, clean drinking water as we assist in the rebirth of those communities.”

Rural communities of 10,000 or less impacted by natural disasters are often the last to get assistance. This grant will provide RCAP the opportunity to provide long-term technical assistance to communities in need of basic capacity building expertise in immediate response to the hurricanes that impacted their communities.

“The funds awarded to the SERCAP region for disaster recovery will assist our communities impacted by the devastating 2017 hurricane season,” said Hope F Cupit, CPA, President & CEO of SERCAP. “SERCAP is committed to rebuilding small communities in Florida during the long-term period of recovery.”

 

Rural Community Assistance Partnership is a national network of six regional non-profit organizations working to ensure that rural and small communities throughout the country have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal. The RCAP network provides a variety of programs to accomplish this goal, including direct training and on the ground technical assistance. For more information, visit www.rcap.org.

 

There are no words to properly address our gratitude…

Acueducto Rural Guacio, is a community water system located in San Sebastian Municipality of Puerto Rico. Guacio is a low-income community were 57.9% live below the poverty line with a median household income of $14,463. The aqueduct provides drinking water to 85 rural families, most small farmers of minor crops.

The water system consists of two deep wells and a 52,000-gallon capacity distribution tank in which water is treated with a tablet chlorinator. The drinking water is distributed by gravity to all members and the community charges a flat rate of $20 per family per month for water consumption. The RCAP Solutions Technical Assistance Provider (TAP) assisted Guacio by helping submit a proposal that would provide funds necessary for the installation of individual water meters.

With this improvement, the community was in the process of shifting from a flat rate charge to one based on cost per consumption. The TAP assisted the community by helping to set the new payment structure, but the project was put on hold due to damage created from Hurricane Maria. The system suffered several broken pipelines due to landslides, but were able to rapidly repair and replace them. Since there was no electric power to operate the system, they tried to operate it with a generator, but it was damaged, and the community was without water service for more than 3 weeks.

Due to the emergency, RCAP Solutions was assisting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health in completing drinking water assessments in rural areas. After performing Guacio’s assessment, RCAP was able to provide and install a new generator with assistance from the EPA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Water Mission, another nonprofit organization with a focus on clean water solutions.

As a result, the community was once again able to operate the water system and provide safe, clean drinking water to the entire community. They were incredibly grateful for the work RCAP Solutions offered, and their partnership with Water Mission in providing the generator and bring power to the water system.

 

“Today, the 19th of October, we would like to give thanks to RCAP Solutions and Water Mission for recognizing and prioritizing the need in this area. We are a small non-profit community water system (Non-PRASA) that provides water to 86 families. We are well organized and well managed and have been successfully providing water for many years. For the last month, to keep our system open and serving our almost 90 families, we had to manually throw water into our distribution system to keep things flowing without the electricity that normally runs our pumps. We are very proud that we kept our system going since many other systems with similar issues were closed. In the last three days it has been a miracle that RCAP helped us to overcome a month of extreme sacrifice and get our system back to running normally. Thank God for RCAP Solutions and what they have done to help us–there are no words to properly address our gratitude.”

– Teresa Torres Quiles, from Aqueducto Rural Guacio, San Sebastian municipality of Puerto Rico.

Click here for more information on our REACH Out to Puerto Rico & USVI Campaign.

RCAP Solutions Selected as Hannaford Cause Bag Beneficiary

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected as a beneficiary of the Hannaford Cause Bag program for the month of November.

The Hannaford Cause Bag program is designed to support local nonprofits through the sale of their reusable Hannaford Helps bag.

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected by Hannaford store leadership as the November beneficiary of the program at the 21 Timpany Boulevard, Gardner, MA Hannaford store. For every Hannaford Helps reusable bag with the good karma message purchased at the Hannaford Store in Gardner, MA during the month of November, RCAP Solutions, Inc. will receive a $1 donation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for RCAP Solutions as we kick off our holiday season giving campaign,” said Karen A. Koller, President & CEO. “Our focus this year is to raise funds to help Puerto Rican hurricane victims. With this initiative, we’re providing an opportunity for the greater Gardner area to support those in the U.S. Caribbean territories as they struggle to rebuild their lives and stabilize their future.”

The funds raised will be divided into two distinct categories. The first will be directed towards the immediate need of providing emergency housing and support services to those who have chosen to resettle either temporarily or permanently in Massachusetts. The second will be deployed over the coming months to assist with reconstruction and economic recovery projects to those on the island of Puerto Rico.

“RCAP Solutions is uniquely positioned to help those who have been devastated by the recent hurricanes,” continued Koller. “With our housing efforts in Worcester County and a seasoned technical assistance team in Puerto Rico, RCAP Solutions is ready and able to meet the needs of those who so desperately need our vital services.”

RCAP Solutions has set a goal of raising $20,000 during the holiday season to support these two important initiatives.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live. RCAP Solutions is a comprehensive nonprofit community development corporation that works with communities of all sizes to address a broad range of needs. RCAP Solutions is part of a coordinated nationwide network with an integrated, multi-faceted approach to delivering high-quality services customized to each community’s unique requirements. For more information, please visit http://www.rcapsolutions.org/.

For more information on the Hannaford Cause Bag program, visit hannaford.bags4mycause.com.

Baker-Polito Administration Provides $3 Million for Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy Installation at Water Treatment Facilities

Funding Grants Available to Municipal Drinking Water & Wastewater Treatment Facilities

BOSTON — In an effort to support clean energy and improve the efficiency of water infrastructure across the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration today announced that up to $3 million in gap funding grants will be made available to municipal drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities to help these plants reduce their energy use, operating costs and carbon footprint. The gap funding grant program is designed to expedite implementation of previously assessed energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects at municipal plants. The program helps to fill the last “gap” in project financing, enabling municipalities to use utility incentives and funds from other sources to build or install selected efficiency and clean energy projects.

“Protecting drinking water and continually improving our energy efficiency are priorities for our Administration, and the gap funding grant program will help support our clean energy resources while providing residents with safe, clean water,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “In addition to energy and environmental protections, the grants awarded will help lower operating costs and improve the resilience and climate readiness of the state’s water infrastructure.”

“Gap funding grants are a crucial resource for communities eager to upgrade important drinking and wastewater facilities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Through the reduction of energy use and carbon emissions, cities and towns across the Commonwealth will recognize lower operating costs while enjoying environmental and air quality improvements.”

The initial round of grants from the gap funding program awarded 21 water and wastewater facilities more than $1.7 million to help fund 30 clean energy and efficiency projects. These projects leveraged nearly $2 million in additional energy utility incentives, leading to the installation of $10.9 million in clean energy improvement projects. The initial gap projects will reduce enough electricity to fully heat and power 897 Massachusetts homes every year for nearly 15 years. The resulting avoided greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to removing 5,369 cars from the road for those 15 years.

“The announcement of streamlined financial support will allow facilities to take advantage of multiple funding sources and jump-start the installation of energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “By filling the last gap in the financing package for these projects, communities around the state will be able to recognize significant cost savings that will be reinvested into drinking and wastewater facilities.”

In 2016, a cost-benefit analysis of the energy efficiency projects during the initial gap funding round was completed in partnership with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Policy Navigation Group in Washington, D.C. The total Massachusetts investment of $2.5 million in energy efficiency projects will result in more than $40.2 million in public benefits over 15 years; yielding more than $31 million in energy savings for water facilities and over $9 million of public environmental benefits. The benefit-cost ratio means that $15 of public benefits will be achieved for every public dollar invested.

“Drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities are often among the largest energy users in a community,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the initiative under its Clean Energy Results Program. “Gap funding allows these utilities to deliver both immediate and long-term returns and efficiencies to municipal water ratepayers, and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from their plant operations.”

The additional $3 million in funding to be awarded in January will allow the program to expand and fill the financing gap for another 20 to 30 treatment facilities. The grants are being provided by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) from funds obtained as Alternative Compliance Payments made in lieu of compliance with the Class I and Class II Renewable Portfolio Standards and Alternative Portfolio Standards.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in energy efficiency and clean energy, saving all ratepayers billions of dollars on energy costs annually and reducing our overall emissions,” said DOER Commissioner Judith Judson. “Not only will these grants give water treatment facilities the funding they need to complete vital projects, but the resulting energy efficiency and renewable energy savings will allow the municipalities to further invest in their infrastructure going forward.”

“Investing in both innovative and traditional water technologies not only improves water quality, but increases energy efficiency and strengthens critical water infrastructure that is vital to our communities,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Stephen Pike. “We look forward to working with our partners at the Departments of Environmental Protection and Energy Resources to improve wastewater treatment facilities across the Commonwealth.”

“It was very helpful to receive grant funding to support our Solar PV Project, currently generating over 200,000 kWh per year, and our Variable Frequency Drive Project, anticipated to save over 1 million kWh per year, which will be online in early 2018,” said Managing Director Sam Corda of the Cambridge Water Department, which participated in the first round of gap funding. “Together, both projects will save our community $132,000 a year in energy costs.”

“This program is a great example of a state and local partnership that improves energy efficiency, protects the environment, and saves taxpayers money,” said Town Manager Ron San Angelo of Southbridge, another community that participated in the first round of gap funding. “The Governor and his team deserve great praise for moving this program forward.”

Municipalities and regional water and wastewater system operators can find the gap program Notice of Intent and information on how to apply for a grant here. Grant applications will be accepted starting on Nov. 6, and the grant filing deadline is 5 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2017.

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